The View From 1776

Our Unconstitutionally Established Religion Of Socialism

Is socialism a secular religion?  And is inculcating it at public expense in our schools violating the First Amendment’s prohibition of establishing a religion?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/19 at 03:51 PM
  1. While your arguments are fervent, every singly one of your arguments contending that Socialism is a "religion" could be equally applied to the proposition that capitalism is a "religion."

    Your contention basically comes down to implying that every strongly held belief constitutes a religion.

    The words "philosophy," "religion," "creed" and similar terms are often used as metaphors and similes in literature to give color and depth to
    the discussion, but their use in describing a particular theory of economics does not have the same literal meaning as when applied to activities that take place in churches, synagogues and mosques. "Religion," in the common sense application of the word, generally describes a belief in a god or other superhuman power.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/20  at  12:10 PM
  2. Mr. Jay, my arguments are not as superficial as you suggest. If you clicked the link to my lengthy analysis, you would see that there is far more to the argument than "implying that every strongly held belief constitutes a religion."

    With few exceptions, among them Marx and Engels, all of the world's socialist theoreticians have proudly described their views as a materialistic religion. Auguste Comte went so far as to call his school of social engineering The Religion of Humanity.

    What prompted Nietzsche to declare that "God is dead" was the rising acceptance of the materialistic religion of socialism that had replaced spiritual religion among Europe's intellectuals.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/20  at  04:31 PM
  3. Jay,

    As usual, you are straining definitions to come up with an argument; one that fails every test. And, as usual, you are imputing arguments to others they may or may not have made without providing evidence of the imputation (i.e., ‘straw argument’).

    Your proposition is: “every strongly held belief constitutes a religion”
    Your corollary is: capitalism is a strongly held belief, so it is the equivalent of a socialist’s belief in socialism (i.e., no more valid).

    The problem with this kind of reasoning is that the one thing has a long history of success (i.e., capitalism) while the other (socialism), has an almost equally long history of failure. In science and logic, we generally start from a proposition and, from that, develop a theory of how things work (or can be made to work); but the socialist idea cannot be raised from the category of speculation without some substantial (or irrefutable) proof for it works. Yes, it has equal validity as an idea, just not as a workable idea; and it is that aspect of your belief in it which is herein decried ‘religious’. A fervent belief in an idea (i.e., theory) lacking any proof is the very essence of faith, and faith is an essential ingredient common to all religion. I will, here, concede a deity is also necessary to religion. Therefore, if belief in it requires a leap of faith (i.e., no proof), then (and for the purpose of this argument) it is a religion or has an essential ‘aspect of religion’ (which is all Thomas has argued). However, it can also be argued faith in an idea to the point it disciples reacts intolerantly, sometimes violently, to every affront to their object of veneration is indistinguishable from ‘deification’ (i.e., socialism as ‘god’); and, therefore a ‘religion’.

    A theory proven is no longer a theory; it is a ‘principle’ or a ‘law’; and, belief in a proven principle moves the idea from the realm faith to that of fact. Because capitalism has such proofs while socialism lacks them, there can be no question a persistent belief in socialism is ‘irrational’, and has at least one of the earmarks of a religion; whereas capitalism has, at least, one of the hallmarks of reason. Similarly, capitalism, once established as successful of its objects and beneficial, transcended religion to the realm of fact; and belief in it can no longer be regarded ‘irrational’.

    This is the long conceded division (by common consent) between reason and religion. Neither type of knowledge is truly superior to the other without some incontrovertible proof one or the other is wrong (i.e., a theory may be valid even when unproven or for which there can be no ultimate proof; e.g., theory of a creator is incapable of proof or disproof). We are incapable of proving everything, and must, therefore, operate in some degree on faith. Yet, faith in something we know to be false is simply nonsense, and may even be harmful. Such is the case of socialism for which we have ample proof it does not accomplish what it intends and does immense and irreparable harm into the bargain. In contrast, the harms arising from capitalism (actual capitalism, not the bogeyman variety you dispense) have been slight. Regardless of any ‘injustices’ attributable to capitalism, its benefits have been enormous and, at this stage, irrefutable; and far outweigh its supposed injustices. No one in his right mind wants us returned to the way we were before Adam Smith (and others) liberated us from the idea markets must be tightly controlled (i.e., to mercantilism as practiced by monarchs and similar elites). The change from stagnant to robust markets was abrupt and spectacular to the point of irrefutability; grandly eclipsing even Smith’s expectations. Smith wrote “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” in 1776, but did not reach a broad and appreciative audience until the late 1780s; and practical acceptance sometime around 1800. Smith never used the term ‘capitalism’, and his understanding of free-markets differs in some respects from ours. Ricardo is probably a better starting point for our modern notion of the term, and it is not until Bentham it was coined.

    Regardless, within a generation, markets and innovation bloomed as never before. Wealth was created faster than it could be dissipated (leading to most, if not all, of the ‘distribution inequality’ of which you socialist complain). It has been argued the gap between poor and rich is greater here than everywhere else and in any previous era; which is perfectly true. But, ask any sane person ranked (here) as ‘poor’ would he/she trade places with some middleclass member of some communist regime (e.g., Cuba, North Korea, China) or some mercantilist autocracy. The answer is invariably no (or the question is dodged). Most countries today practice capitalism in some form or degree for the simple reason it not only works, but works so well there is no longer any real alternative to it; and not only to the benefit of elites. Citizen-demand for better living (and working) conditions can only be satisfied by capitalism; and the elites know this.

    Billions of people globally acknowledge the superiority of economies motivated by capitalism; regardless they ‘believe’ themselves anything but capitalists. If you exchange money for goods without reference to government (i.e., don’t need a license to do buy), then you are engaging in capitalism. If you expect wages or other benefits as a condition of your labor, then you are a capitalist. If you have some choice in the stores you buy from or are convinced of rights to personal property, then you are a capitalist. If you flock to this country for its bounty, even as you bad-mouth its ideals, you are a capitalist. Is it a ‘matter of faith’ that even card-carrying commies refuse relocating to the socialist paradise, or, as is more likely, even they recognize the bankruptcy of their creed? People everywhere vote frequently with their feet in favor of capitalism, not as a matter of faith but convinced of a better life from what works, even when they have only the vaguest notion of what constitutes capitalism.

    So, no, not every strongly held belief constitutes a religion; and only those ideas either incapable of proof or demonstrably false yet are still believed so qualify. The socialist’s belief in his credo is not the same as the capitalist’s belief in his, and for the same reason. The capitalist has some reasonable expectation capitalism will result in benefits to him and to others. The socialist may have the same or similar expectation of benefits for his credo, but this is in no sense ‘reasonable’; and can only be explained as a ‘faith-based’ or ‘knee-jerk’ reaction by zealots. If you would rather I call yours a dogma, ‘zealotry’ or ‘fanaticism’ rather than a religion, I am all for that because I hate seeing religion and socialism lumped together.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/20  at  10:21 PM
  4. Bob,

    You pose several interesting connections between religion and economic theory. I think you are contending that to be a "religion," the concept has to be "faith-based" and incapable of being "proved" to be a successful system, and that therefore Socialism qualifies as a religion. You argue that because Socialism is considered a failed economic system, it cannot be "proved" and is therefore a faith-based belief, and therefore qualifies as a religion (in spite of its lacking a deity).

    If I have understood you correctly, I would suggest that the "failure" criterion you are positing for designating what qualifies as a religion would not go down well with most adherents to Christianity, Judaism and other established religions.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/23  at  02:55 PM
  5. J. Jay,

    Again, you have stretched meanings (this time mine) in order to make a point of your own. Try not to project your own thoughts and biases onto others, and we may get somewhere. Otherwise, this will degenerate into the usual tit-for-tat. If you have a point to make, make it on your own account without twisting what others have said.

    To reiterate, I am not the one conflating socialism with religion, though I see why others might. Personally, I find the conflation of the two repugnant. For one thing, religion encourages us to raise the bar on personal virtue, to become more than simple animals in the ways we interact. It also stimulates us to probe the deepest questions about ourselves and our universe, and it is from this unquenchable need in us that such questions are asked at all. This makes religion and science twins in the quest for and dissemination of knowledge. Socialism does neither, and its main effects, thus far, have been to sow rancor, stir envy, and make us miserable.

    And, no, I wasn’t making points relating to economics either. Socialism does that by defaming market-capitalism while substituting economic premises of its own at odds with all we have learned of markets, of what increases wealth and results in the greatest bounty to the greatest number. The only points I did make regarding socialism and economics (note, not religion & economics) is the two don’t mix and socialism’s many attempts at overturning the, shall we say, ‘natural economic order’ has been a string of spectacular failures with a clear trail of destruction. I don’t know that religion and economics mix all that well either, but then religion doesn’t pretend to advise us (scold really) on economic matters the way socialism does (other than to remind us we can’t buy our way into heaven, and that deeds count more than tithes).
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  09:31 PM
  6. Bob,

    Thanks for clearing that up. I agree with you that one is on shaky ground in attempting to conflate socialism with religion.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  02:48 PM
  7. J. Jay,

    Wrong again. And, again, you are twisting meanings rather than crafting some of your own. Clearly, you have some compulsion to spin every debate your way, regardless the distress it causes you. It is an itch you can’t help but scratch, even when it leaves you bloody and sore.

    I neither said nor implied there aren’t valid reasons to ‘conflate’ socialism with religion (i.e., make comparisons). I said I find doing so repugnant. Can you really not see the difference? Perhaps, you can’t because of an aversion to religion so total you can’t see the parallels or the repugnance on our side. There are, indeed, strong parallels between religion and the socialist ideology, just not enough to qualify the latter as a religion. It has its cult, yes, but not a true religion.

    Now, do leave off that compulsion (itch) of yours to absurdly spin every comment. Spinning is not debating; and, it is debate we want from you. It would be far better for you to devise arguments of your own than constantly attacking, spinning, mocking, and corrupting the valid arguments of others. Otherwise, you are trapping yourself in a dependence on us to provide you with fodder, fodder you leap to at every pass. Doesn’t it occur to you that: where we control the subject matter, we control also the debate? I’d have thought, by now, you’d have figured that one out for yourself. Where’s that much vaunted ‘genius’ you liberals are always claiming?

    [Okay, I couldn’t resist a bit of taunting of my own.]

    Yet, I have been observing your debate-style and other ‘gifts’ for some time now; and, while I recognize you are capable in some respects, mostly you are led by every discussion rather than leading it in fresh directions (isn’t there some aspect of politics you would like to discuss that is not getting attention here?). Whenever you do manage to pull things off-topic, it is only because of your ‘shotgun’ approach which throws everything and everything at us to see what will stick (not that it does you any good); and is more about derailing than moving the discussion forward. A wise debater determines where he wants to take the debate before casting his bait. An even wiser debater leads with carrots as often as the cudgel (if not oftener).

    And finally, did I mention – don’t scratch that itch!
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  06:30 AM
  8. Bob,

    You last riposte seems to be drawing a razor-thin distinction.

    You say that you find conflating socialism and religion to be "repugnant," but in the same breath you are apparently saying that there may be "valid reasons" for doing so.

    I guess this could be considered rational and perhaps similar to saying that you abhor homicide, but could understand why it might be justifiable.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/05  at  10:52 AM
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